Mastodon The Writing Desk: June 2016

30 June 2016

Book Launch Guest Post ~ For The Most Beautiful, by Emily Hauser @ehauserwrites

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Women of the Trojan War

It was a war that gave birth to legends — to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. Three thousand years later, it’s time for the women of Troy to tell their story…  The daughter of a prince should never defy her father and an imprisoned princess should never fall in love with her captor. However, in turbulent times, rules can be broken. And as war raged, the lives of two women collide. Captives of the Greeks, Briseis, princess of Pedasus, and Krisayis, daughter of the high priest of Troy, are pawns in a battle fought by men. But choices they make will determine their fate and that of the city and its people they hold dear, in an epic tale that has waited millennia to be told…

My debut novel For The Most Beautiful is a re-telling of the tale of the Trojan War, one of the greatest legends of all time, from the point of view of two women, Briseis and Krisayis. These women are mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, the archaic Greek epic which tells the story of the battle for Troy. But, as many of us know, Homer’s version of the Trojan War is anything but a woman’s story: it’s filled with overweening heroes (Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, to name but a few), male gods, and blood-and-guts battles between the Greeks and the Trojans.

When I set about writing For the Most Beautiful, one of the things I wanted to do most was to recover and re-tell the experiences of the women of Troy. The question is often asked, why does history matter? And why re-write it? To me, the fact that the legend of the Trojan War has been passed down for thousands of years suggests that there has to be something in it that appeals to us; something about it that allows us to reflect on who we are as humans, why we’re here, and who we want to be. So what is it? Perhaps it’s the very human wrath of Achilles that draws us in, or the tragedy of the death of Hector as we watch his wife, Andromache, cope with her grief at his loss. These are very real human tales, and they are ones that are enduringly relevant.

But I began to wonder if there wasn’t also another way in which we might be able to connect to the story of the Trojan War, another way of seeing it that might allow us to understand it – and ourselves – a little bit better. When I looked more closely at the stories of Briseis and Krisayis (spelled Chryseis in the Iliad), I discovered a completely new tale lying hidden within the text of Homer’s epic. The story tells how Briseis, a princess of Pedasus (a city nearby Troy), saw her husband and three brothers killed by Achilles – and then was captured by him as a sex slave. Krisayis, my second protagonist, even opens the Iliad with a debate over her release when her father, a Trojan priest, wants to ransom her from the Greek camp. These women lie at the very heart of the action, and by looking at their stories, we discover not only a breathtaking tale full of courage, betrayal and sacrifice – but also a new way of looking at the Trojan War.

But why focus on the women? I’ve studied the classical world for many years, first at Cambridge and now at Yale, and one of the enduring fascinations for me has been the women of ancient Greece and Rome. As the textual record – one of the most reliable sources we have for antiquity – is heavily biased towards men (written both by, about and for men), it’s always been a challenge to uncover the lives and stories of the women of the ancient world. To me, fiction provides a unique way in which to imagine ourselves back into the past, and, grounded in the archaeological and textual details we do know, to bring back the lost voices of the women of the Trojan War.

Emily Hauser

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About the Author

Born in Brighton and brought up in Suffolk, Emily Hauser studied Classics at Cambridge, where she was taught by Mary Beard. She then went to Harvard on a Fulbright Scholarship, and now studies and teaches at Yale, where she is completing her PhD. For the Most Beautiful – the first book in a trilogy based on the myths of the Golden Apples – is her debut novel. Find out more on Emily’s website, and follow her on Twitter @ehauserwrites. 

Blog Tour: The Lord of Ireland (The Fifth Knight Series Book 3) by E.M. Powell #HFVBT

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order. Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

How to Write a Historical Thriller

It’s a real privilege to be able to write a guest post here on The Writing Desk. This is one of the blogs I come to when I am seeking writerly wisdom and advice and I hope I can add to that! Today I’m sharing what I know about writing a very popular sub-genre: the historical thriller. This is the category into which my medieval Fifth Knight series belongs. As the sales for the series are now into six figures, I must be doing something right.

For those of you for whom the historical thriller is an entirely new concept, I also suggest you read Robert Harris’s hugely enjoyable Pompeii or any of C.J. Sansom’s magnificent Tudor Shardlake series. Ken Follett is a marvellous read, too.

In discussing this topic, I’m including the related mystery and crime sub-genres, as thriller, crime and mystery have huge crossovers. Note that the historical thriller is also a sub-genre of the giant of a genre that is the thriller, as well as historical fiction. You may be wondering why I’m so hung up on genre definition. But this brings me to my first point.

Define your genre- and thus your market

By being clear about what your genre is, you are already starting to define the market for your novel. You may be a writer who likes to write for the sheer pleasure of it. Nothing wrong with that. But if writing to make money (as in ‘Pay Electric Bill’ rather than ‘Buy Island’) is your aim, then defining your market one of the things you need to consider from the outset. Like it or not, readers mostly make choices on whether a book will appeal to their existing taste.

‘But I don’t know what my market is!’ I hear you cry. ‘I haven’t written/sold the thing yet!’ Think of it in terms of a bookshop. If you have a historical thriller that has a young woman on the cover in a big dress, beautiful though it may be, it is highly unlikely that a reader who favours a cover with a broken sword and a dented helmet lying in the mud is going to pick it up. You need to decide not only on your story, but the tone and the level of violence and what its themes are going to be. If your dented sword cover has a plot that centres on embroidery or vice versa, be prepared for the 1* reviews and indifferent sales.

Do your research- but it’s still a thriller

Part of what draws us all to writing historical fiction is that we all love history. We especially love our own specialist areas of history. Any novelist has to do some research, but the commitment is huge in writing historical fiction. We all want to make our novels as representative of our time and place as we can. We want to get the facts right. We want our readers to be immersed in our worlds. And of course, that’s all well and good. It’s what our readers, people who love historical fiction demand.

In your hard, hard work to get the type of grain in the field correct or the right baron on the right horse, do not neglect the other important element: you are writing a thriller. Your readers will expect action. They will expect pace. They will expect intrigue. They will expect danger. They will expect violence, betrayal. Murder. Mayhem. They will expect to be surprised.

If these elements are missing, then you may not be writing a historical thriller- you may be writing something different. Nothing at all wrong with that. But ask yourself the question. It might also be that you’re not writing a thriller, but these elements are creeping in and you’re enjoying them the most. Then maybe you’re a thriller writer at heart, and you need to ramp up all those elements and really, really go for it.

It’s not serious historical fiction- is it?

Anyone who writes genre fiction faces criticism. Genre fiction is commercial fiction. It’s not literary or serious fiction. Those of us who write commercial fiction know perfectly well that our work can be sneered at. But ask yourself this: what do you read? If the answer is that you like to read commercial fiction, then why not write it? You enjoy it hugely. That’s what you want your readers to do.

You know how much hard work you’ve put into making your book the best it can be. The hours and hours that you’ve put into creating worlds and characters your readers can get lost in and will keep them hooked until the last page. In my book, that’s serious. Go forth and thrill!

E. M. Powell
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About the Author

E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon best seller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is a regular blogger on English Historical Fiction Authors and a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Learn more about E.M. Powell on her website and find her on Twitter @empowellauthor.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, June 9 Review at Impressions In Ink Friday, June 10 Excerpt & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Monday, June 20 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Tuesday, June 21 Interview at Layered Pages Friday, June 24 Review at Dianne Ascroft's Blog Monday, June 27 Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Tuesday, June 28 Review at CelticLady's Reviews Wednesday, June 29 Review at Book Nerd Thursday, June 30 Guest Post at The Writing Desk Tuesday, July 5 Excerpt at What Is That Book About Thursday, July 7 Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read BooksMonday, July 11 Review at A Book Geek Saturday, July 16 Review at Bookramblings Monday, July 18 Review at Just One More Chapter Friday, July 22 Review at Broken Teepee

04_The Lord of Ireland_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

28 June 2016

Guest Post - The Shadow of a King, by C. M. Gray @cgray129

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In his fifteenth year of rule, King Uther Pendragon - High King of all the Celtic Tribes - is set on a quest by Merlyn and the druids of Mona, to brave the winter seas and set sail for the Isle of Erin. The quest placed upon the king, despite the tribal lands being at war with Saxon invaders, is to take a war party and return with a prize that will lay to rest the ghosts of the past and allow the Celts to reclaim their lands. But none of those who set sail realize what this quest will release within their king, and what events will unfold. 

I started writing because I was bored, brutally honest but true! I always loved to read, but I had never ever thought about writing anything myself, but then, back in 2010 I got bored… television was my undoing. I realised that I was returning home from work every night and allowing my brain to be entertained in front of the ‘idiot box’  - I couldn’t even remember what I had been watching most of the time!

So I sat at my laptop and stared at a blank screen for a while until a line came to me… - ‘The floorboard creaked under the sole of his felt boot – a calculated risk when entering a sleeping man’s room uninvited.’ – I was hooked by the writing bug! That first line became my first book, The Flight of the Griffin, a fantasy that was ‘longlisted’ for the 2013 Times/ChickenHouse Children’s literary awards. I have since written a sequel to this called Chaos Storm and both have a good following of readers, young and old, who enjoy fantasy adventure.

It wasn’t until I got to my third book that I discovered my real love, which is for the Dark ages and medieval times. Especially legends surrounding the main Arthurian legend.  Much has been written about King Arthur, Merlin the Druid and the Lady of the Lake. There are some wonderful characters within this legend that we can really relate to and we all love the story, the romance and the clash of steel.

However, when I started writing the Shadowland books I decided that the story of Arthur and his Knights had been too well told by some amazing authors and it had almost all been said. I could have invented a story around the legends and given a slightly different take  which would have been entertaining and fun to do, but I decided to look for a lesser told story within the Arthurian theme.

My tale from the Dark Ages starts with an old storyteller who gathers an audience of villagers around him, by a village Inn’s log fire, one midwinter’s eve. He is persuaded to tell a story from his own youth rather than a tale of fancy, and it becomes a retelling of the rise of Uther Pendragon.

Uther was the father of Arthur. He was the man who rose from a humble beginning within the Isceni tribe to unite all the tribes of Britain against a common foe - the Saxon invaders. Under Roman rule, the tribes had lived a simple, relatively untroubled life, but around AD 410 the Romans realised their empire was in peril and departed, packing everything of value they headed to their ships and sailed away. This happened relatively quickly and left a power vacuum in Britain that the Saxon’s, Jutes and Angles immediately took advantage of – the tribes of Britain needed to unite if they were ever going to claim Britain as their own, they needed a strong leader.

In my first book, Shadowland, I tell of the rise of Uther. How as a boy he met Merlyn and how he discovered he was destined to lead the Britons against the Saxon invaders after his brother Ambrosius died. As much as possible I have kept faith with all the old legends and stories told of Uther and the early years of Merlyn, but because this was the dark ages and so little is factually known, I’ve thrown a bunch of fantasy and a little Druid madness into the mix to make it more interesting.

Shadowland has been really well received with over 250 Amazon reviews and although I intended it to be a stand-alone story, I have been getting so many requests to follow up with another Uther story that almost two years ago I began to write a sequel.

The Shadow of a King was published in May 2016. It tells a very different tale from the first, but still taken from the legends of Uther. Persuaded on his deathbed to tell the story of how he accepted a Druid’s quest to journey to the Isle of Erin and there to bring back the ring of stones known as the 
Giant’s Dance and then upon his return how he met his love, Igraine.

If you enjoy Arthurian Legend, I hope you will try Shadowland and The Shadow of a King. Neither are written to be factual books of history, very little fact remains from those times leaving the interpretation of legend open to an author’s imagination. These are merely accounts of how it might have been…

C. M. Gray
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About the Author

Born in Essex England, C.M.Gray has travelled and lived in many different places in our world, from Hong Kong and India, to a farm in Burgundy France and now a house in the hills outside of Barcelona, Spain. He has been a carpenter, a stockbroker and grower of wines, life is an ongoing adventure! Writing is a passion that has so far produced four books, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers, The Flight of the Griffin, Chaos Storm, Shadowland and The Shadow of a King. Learn more about C.M.Gray and his books on his website and find him on Twitter @cgray129.

Book Review: Dear Amy, by Helen Callaghan @HECallaghan

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A schoolgirl goes missing in Cambridge - and the police are convinced she has run away from home. Margot Lewis, the girl’s former teacher is also the ‘agony aunt’ of the Dear Amy advice column in the local newspaper. She receives all kinds of letters – but never one like this:  Dear Amy I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man. He says I can never go home. I’m afraid that he’ll kill me.

This debut novel from Helen Callaghan follows the efforts of likeable amateur detective Margo Lewis to save a young girl who seems to be in great danger. Helen has drawn on her life in Cambridgeshire to add convincing details to the setting, and it seems at first that we could be dealing with a cruel hoax, as it seems improbable that anyone who has been kidnapped could write letters – and send them in the post.

The pace picks up as Margot realises it is a race to uncover the reason before it is too late – and the lives of more than one girl could be at stake. As is so often the case in real life, we never really understand the motivation of the sinister kidnapper and the book becomes troubling is when we switch to the point of view of the helpless victim.

I found this is engaging and troubling, as I can recall similar crimes which seemed to dominate the headlines then drift from public consciousness as time passes. The answer to the riddle of the letters, when it is finally revealed, is original and unexpected. All I can say is that it took my completely by surprise and sets this book apart from others in the genre.

Tony Riches 
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About the Author

Helen Callaghan was born in Los Angeles to British parents and her early years were spent in both the US and the UK. She became a bookseller, specialising in fiction, before securing a place at Cambridge University as a mature student. Find out more at Helen’s website and find her on Twitter @HECallaghan. 

21 June 2016

Special Guest Post: Life on the Edge of Crazy, by Katie O’Sullivan @OkatieO

Climate scientist Chase Anderson races from one project to the next, unwilling to slow down in his quest to save the world’s oceans. He has no time for family or relationships until he crashes into an impetuous blonde with a quirky sense of humor. One sizzling kiss makes him seriously reevaluate his priorities. And his sanity. Emma Maguire left her small Cape Cod hometown years ago, seeking the fast pace and anonymity of New York City. She’s not sure what she’s searching for, but when a family crisis brings her home to Provincetown she’s caught in a crazy tangle of half-truths and mistaken identity… and falls for the handsome stranger who broke her cell phone. Will untangling the web of lies drive them crazy, or lead to something even crazier – like love?

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

My novel CRAZY ABOUT YOU is about small towns and second chances, learning to trust others and also believing in yourself. I live year-round on Cape Cod, and when I started writing fiction I decided to use the beautiful settings of the Cape as backdrops to my stories. They say “Write what you know,” right? And while Cape Cod has been a prime tourist destination for a few hundred years, there aren’t an overabundance of books set here…and some that do take place here just get it wrong. I try hard to infuse my novels with a sense of place, and lots of real details about what makes Cape Cod such a unique setting.

Summertime in Provincetown is every bit as flamboyant and colorful as portrayed in my story. The other nine months of the year it’s a quiet live-and-let-live community of families, fishermen, ocean researchers and artists. My kids attend a regional high school and have best friends who live in P-town year round. The place has a small-town, hometown feel to it where everyone knows and cares about each other.

But for the three months of summer, the population swells from under 3,000 to over 60,000 and the party never ends. Especially during Carnival Week in August, which is kind of like Mardi Gras with a rainbow-striped feather boa wrapped tightly around its neck.

Since the main character of CRAZY ABOUT YOU, Emma Maguire, grew up in P-town, she’s unfazed by much of the circus swirling around her. Like my kids, she went to high school with these shop owners and waitresses, and has learned to ignore most of the craziness that accompanies life in a tourist town and go with the flow. The other main character, Chase Anderson, is a climate scientist who studies the world’s oceans, too focused on saving the planet to slow down and enjoy life of any kind, let alone one as crazy as you find on the streets of P-town.

There really is a Center for Coastal Studies located in Provincetown. The Atlantic garbage gyre Chase is studying? That’s real, too. The “Plastisphere” of plastic debris so thick that it’s forming its own biosphere in the middle of the Atlantic, complete with yet-undiscovered bacteria? Also real. I read a fascinating article in Scientific American about the discovery of the “plastisphere” and the scientists collecting the varieties of new bacterial strains, and that part of my novel grew from there. Funny where we find inspiration!

Should we be scared of looming environmental disaster? Probably. Climate change is a serious threat to our world, and people need to be aware that these dangers are real. Slipping a bit of eco-knowledge into a romance novel isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, but might help introduce terms and concepts to readers who don’t know what’s going on in the oceans.

Like my character Chase, I want to make sure Cape Cod remains a beautiful place to live and to visit for generations to come. I’m not going to stop anyone from throwing plastic beads off the Carnival parade floats driving down the main streets in August, but I’m hoping in some small way to make people a little more aware of the problems facing our oceans and coastlines. And appreciate the unique beauty that is Cape Cod.

Katie O’Sullivan
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About the Author

Katie O’Sullivan lives with her family and big dogs on Cape Cod, drinking way too much coffee and inventing new excuses not to dust. Living next to the Atlantic influences everything she writes, from her YA mermaid series to her crazy contemporary romances set along the Cape’s sandy shores. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and writes romance and adventure for young adults and something steamier for the young at heart. Find out more at Katie's Website and Blog, and find her on Facebook and Twitter @OkatieO.

11 June 2016

The Tudor Brandons: Mary and Charles - Henry VIII's Nearest & Dearest, by Sarah-Beth Watkins

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

This fascinating book studies the life and times of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Henry VIII's dearest sister and his closest companion. Charles rose from being Henry's childhood friend to becoming the Duke of Suffolk; a consummate courtier and diplomat. Mary was always royalty. 

At first married to the King of France, Mary quickly wed Charles after Louis XII's death in 1515, against her brother's wishes. Their actions could have been construed as treason yet Henry chose to spare their lives. 

They returned to court and despite their ongoing disagreements throughout the years, especially over the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the Tudor Brandons remained Henry's most loyal subjects and perhaps more importantly, his beloved family.

"It´s a book very much worth reading, and I highly recommend it." Review on Under The Tudor Rose

"A worthwhile addition to any Tudor library, its light and readable without shirking on detail and provides a brilliant introduction to the lives of the Suffolks during those momentous earlier years of Henry VIII’s tumultuous reign." Review by the Henry Tudor Society

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About the Author

Sarah-Beth Watkins works in publishing and has a BA in Social Policy. She grew up in Richmond, Surrey and began soaking up history from an early age. Her love of writing has seen her articles published in various publications over the past twenty years. Her history works are Ireland’s Suffragettes, Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII and The Tudor Brandons. Sarah also provides services for writers at and you can find her on Twitter @SarahBWatkins.

10 June 2016

Book Review ~ Chosen Child, by Linda Huber @LindaHuber19

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Ella longs for a child of her own, but a gruesome find during an adoption process deepens the cracks in her marriage. A family visit starts off a horrifying chain of events, and Ella can only hope she won’t lose the person she loves most of all. Amanda is expecting her second child when her husband vanishes. She is tortured by thoughts of violence and loss, but nothing prepares her for the shocking conclusion to the police investigation. And in the middle of it all, a little girl is looking for a home of her own with a ‘forever’ mummy and daddy… 

I started reading Chosen Child, the new psychological thriller from Linda Huber, with high expectations, as one of her previous books, The Cold, Cold Sea was unforgettable. I was not disappointed. Right from the start we are drawn into the routine lives of her characters and know something dreadful is bound to happen.

When it did I was taken completely by surprise – and couldn’t put the book down until I’d found out how the nightmare could ever be resolved. I particularly liked the Cornish setting, and Linda’s keen eye for the little details that keep the reader guessing.

Highly recommended.

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog. Nowadays, she spends her time teaching English and writing psychological thrillers. The Paradise TreesThe Cold Cold SeaThe Attic Room and Chosen Child are available in eBook and paperback. Find out more at Linda's website and follow her on Facebook  and Twitter @LindaHuber19

9 June 2016

Blog Tour: The Lord of Ireland (The Fifth Knight Series Book 3) by E.M. Powell #HFVBT

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.
Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.
But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

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About the Author

E.M. Powell is the author of medieval thriller The Fifth Knight, which was a #1 Amazon best seller. Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in the northwest of England with her husband and daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. She is a regular blogger on English Historical Fiction Authors and a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Learn more about E.M. Powell on her website and find her on Twitter @empowellauthor.

7 June 2016

Book Launch ~ Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet: A Novel, by H.P. Wood

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

It's been called "unputdownable,"
"a treasure,"
"a bizarre tale,"
and "probably the most odd book I've read."

A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.
Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island's newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty's mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England.
The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty's new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island...or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.
With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary ThingsMagruder's Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where "normal" is the exception to the rule.

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About the Author

H.P. Wood is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks. She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband, a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas, and more cats than is strictly logical. You can find her at and on Twitter @HilaryWrites.

5 June 2016

Guest Post ~ TOBIAS, by Prue Batten

Available on Amazon UKAmazon US

Byzantium stretches a weakening grip across Eastern Europe, trying to hold onto all that has made it an empire. Tyrian purple, the unique dye that denotes its power, is held under close guard by the imperial house. However a Jewish merchant from Venice has sourced an illegal supply and Tobias the dwarf minstrel and his twin brother, Tomas, begin a dangerous journey to retrieve the purple and deliver it into the merchant’s eager hands. But is this supply as secret as they hoped? Trade is cut throat, men are expendable, money is power and Constantinople provides the exotic backdrop during a time of scimitars and shadows.

This is Tobias – the story of a minstrel and a broken life…

When I received an invitation from Tony via Facebook to guest on his blog, I was enormously chuffed as he’s a writer I admire. I was asked to talk about my latest release, Tobias, a book that’s ostensibly about twelfth century Europe and Byzantium, and what inspired me to write it.

In the first instance it was trade. In reading about the development of trade as we move through the Middle Ages, when Venice, Pisa and Genoa are competing against each other for trading rights, names began to have a curious effect upon me. Names like olibanum, cinnamon, salt, alum and frankincense. Cloth like silk and wool. Colours like pers, brunete, echiqueles and cramoisy. Cities like Venice, Genoa, Marseille, Lyon and Constantinople. Quite simply, the hairs stood on my neck, things resonating, and I knew that I just had to write a series where my characters were sunk amongst the shadowy and whispering folds of twelfth century trade.

Tobias was a hard book to write for two reasons – the first being that Toby has achondroplasia. Simply put, he’s a dwarf, more correctly a Little Person. I knew nothing about achondroplasia and the way an individual is affected in daily life by the strictures of the condition. So first and foremost, in order to make Toby an entirely ‘real’ character, I made contact with an American blogger whose son has the condition ( ). She talks about exactly those difficulties and she helped me greatly by attempting to overlay the demands of twelfth century life with the physical condition.

The second issue was that a vast tract of the story was set in Constantinople and much of the archaeology of the time was destroyed in the Fourth Crusade and the later Ottoman invasion. But I’ve never been known to take things lying down and I discovered a brilliant 3-D rendition of the city at that time – and it became Tobias’ and my GPS as we walked arm in arm through the city, finding places that would be settings for Toby’s dramatic tale.

Tobias as a main character was never meant to be; he was a mere secondary character in a previous series, The Gisborne Saga. But my editor liked him and was convinced he had a deep tale to tell. I asked Toby and he agreed that he had the story to end all stories – a true chanson de geste! It’s emotive, one that tugs at heartstrings and I like the idea that Tobias might either sing about his own life (he is a minstrel) across the halls of Europe, or indeed that his chanson will be sung to entertain not just noblemen, but the common man.

He’s since become a part of a series that is called The Triptych Chronicle. A triptych is defined in the OED as A set of three associated … literary … works intended to be appreciated together’. The series will be about three connected characters, in that they all share the same employer, a man with a developing trading company, and they all know each other well. But like each of the painted panels on a triptych, their stories can be appreciated as semi-standalones. The three will round out my involvement with twelfth century Europe and Byzantium for the foreseeable future.

So far, Tobias has charmed people like Christian Cameron (‘Authentic characters and a twisting plot move this tale to a gripping end’.), SJA Turney (‘An atmospheric journey through the seedy underbelly of medieval Europe.’) and Ann Swinfen ‘A powerful tale of violence, treachery and intrigue…’) who have reviewed it well. It was recently awarded a coverted indie award – a gold medal from Indie B.R.A.G. (USA) 2016 and was a semi-finalist in the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016 (UK).

I am now well sunk into Book Two of the series, entitled Guillaume, and Tobias has just returned to the story. I’m so glad, as he is one of my greatest friends and I would have hated never to see him again…

Tony, thanks so much for inviting me to be your guest. I love thinking about the background to writing a novel. It anchors one back to one’s foundations. Cheers!

Prue Batten
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About the Author

A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, Prue became an award-winning cross genre writer who enjoys creating fiction from history and fantasy.
She lives on an island to the south of the mainland continent, a place called Tasmania, and is a farmer, a dog owner, a gardener and embroiderer, a swimmer and a kayaker. Find out more at Prue''s website and find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

3 June 2016

Book Launch Guest Post ~ Faithful Traitor, by Samantha Wilcoxson

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Margaret Pole is no stranger to fortune's wheel. From her childhood as firstborn of the heir apparent of England, she was brought low as the daughter of a traitor. After years of turmoil as the Tudor dynasty made its roots, Margaret finds favor with her cousin, King Henry VIII. Will the remnant of the York dynasty thrive under this tempestuous king or will Margaret discover that there is a price to pay for having an excess of royal blood? 

When I decided to write about Elizabeth of York in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, it was not with the intention of creating a series. However, as I lost myself in the story of this quiet yet strong woman, I realized just how fascinating it was to look at the stories of the remaining Plantagenets under Tudor rule.

Elizabeth is foremost in this group as the daughter of Plantagenet king Edward IV. Her decision to be devoted to the first Tudor king, her husband Henry VII, rather than press her own claim or that of a male relative was vital to history as we know it. The Wars of the Roses came to an end, and the Tudor dynasty brought relative peace.

But a Plantagenet remnant remained. Margaret Pole was the cousin of Elizabeth of York, through their fathers who were sons of Richard, Duke of York. Her story is not one that novelists have focused upon, despite her intriguing position as close friend of Catherine of Aragon, governess of Princess Mary, and mother of the famous Cardinal Reginald Pole. Before I had completed Elizabeth’s story, I knew that I would have to continue with Margaret’s.

Though they have much in common, these women have some significant differences as well. Margaret is a complex character, well aware of the shadow of treason that curses her family but anxious to see her family raised to positions that their royal blood deserves. Fortune’s wheel turns erratically throughout her life, seeing her alternatively raised as Countess of Salisbury and branded a traitor like her father and brother before her.

Besides the inevitable drama between the tempestuous Henry VIII and his York cousins, there is also the question of religion. When Henry sets aside his first wife, Margaret is horrified on several levels. She longs to support both Catherine and Mary, is devoted to the Catholic faith, and has a growing brood of children and grandchildren to consider. How to stay faithful to her God and her king becomes a question she struggles with.

In Faithful Traitor, Margaret is a strong, independent woman who finds that, despite her best efforts, there is a price to pay for having an excess of royal blood.

Samantha Wilcoxson
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About the Author

Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Her 2015 novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, features Elizabeth of York and was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This novel is followed by the recent release of Faithful Traitor, which carries on the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times with Margaret Pole. The Tudor England trilogy will be completed with the story of Queen Mary. Samantha has also published two middle grade novels, Over the Deep: A Titanic Adventure and No Such Thing as Perfect. Each of these are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format. Samantha lives on a small lake in Michigan with her husband, three children, two dogs, and two cats. This crew provides plenty of good times and writing inspiration. When she is not reading or writing, Samantha enjoys travelling and learning about new places. 

Find out more at her blog and follow her on Twitter @carpe_librum.

2 June 2016

Book Launch ~ The Girl in the Glass Tower, by Elizabeth Fremantle

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Tudor England. The word treason is on everyone's lips. Arbella Stuart, niece to Mary, Queen of Scots and presumed successor to Elizabeth I, has spent her youth behind the towering windows of Hardwick Hall. As presumed successor to the throne, her isolation should mean protection - but those close to the crown are never safe.
Aemilia Lanyer - writer and poet - enjoys an independence denied to Arbella. Their paths should never cross. But when Arbella enlists Aemilia's help in a bid for freedom, she risks more than her own future. Ensnared in another woman's desperate schemes, Aemilia must tread carefully or share her terrible fate . . .
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About the Author
Elizabeth Fremantle is the author of Queens's Gambit, Sisters of Treason and Watch the Lady. She has a first in English and an MA in creative writing from Birkbeck, University of London. She has contributed to various publications including The Sunday Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. She also reviews fiction for The Sunday Express. Find out more at her website and follow Elizabeth on Twitter @LizFremantle

1 June 2016

Book Launch - I Love the Tudors: 400 Fantastic Facts, by Mickey Mayhew #Tudors

New on Amazon UK and now available on Amazon US

Did you know that Henry VII's father died in prison before he was even born? Or that Scotland Yard takes its name from Margaret Tudor's Scottish retinue? That Henry VIII was too fat to walk down the stairs? Or that Elizabeth I wore poisonous makeup? 

This fun little book, containing 400 fantastic facts about the Tudor era and more than 100 illustrations, will delight Tudor fans everywhere!

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About the Author

Mickey Mayhew is a lifelong Londoner, currently completing his PhD on the cult surrounding tragic queens Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. He was co-author on three books relating to Jack the Ripper and his first non-fiction work, The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots, was published in January 2015. I Love the Tudors was released in the UK in January 2016 and is now available in the US. Mickey is also a regular columnist for several historical journals, as well as being a film and theatre reviewer for various London lifestyle magazines. Find out more at his website and find Mickey on Twitter @Mickey_Mayhew.